Land Claims Update
by Doug George-Kanentiio
There is a strong light remaining within the longhouses of the Haudenosaunee
but it is flickering. There are those remarkable clan leaders who insist the
effort to secure justice for our lost lands must be a spiritual endeavor
one in which we reestablish our intimate relationship with the living organism
we call Iethinistenha Ohontsia
(the earth mother). We must use our Haudenosaunee language, that manner of speaking
born of this land, to address her concerns and begin healing her wounds after
seven generations of being repeatedly beaten and raped.
In the hearts and minds of the traditionalists there is no other reason to
pursue a land claim, an action which, if undertaken without proper public relations,
is bound to incur the wrath of the very people we need to enlighten. We are
the true custodians of the natural world; as a contemplating species we have
a sacred obligation to insure all other life forms have the inherent right to
exist in their own space and time.
Our rituals, our music, our prayers, our very names are meant to remind us of this task. Should we fail to speak to our mother or otherwise ignore her needs, then life as we know it in this hemisphere will undergo radical ecological change. This is why the Haudenosaunee could not accept the European-based notion of earth as commodity; it explains the extreme internal differences among our own people regarding the way in which we choose to live.
Divorced from our culture
Some of us are so divorced from our culture and so void of common sense as to believe they will be happier people if they can use our earth mother as a means of barter. They think converting our 26 million acres into casinos, which demean the human spirit and extract massive amounts of energy from the soil and water, will enhance their lives.
After a decade of commercial gambling at Akwesasne, Oneida and Seneca, those
people are more miserable than ever. They have become piggish, paranoid, peevish.
They have created a class of super-rich Haudenosaunee who go about boasting
of their material wealth despite the nagging shame of having exploited the very
traditions they used to make their money.
They were not the ones who fought to preserve Haudenosaunee culture and identity
through the long dark days of the 19th and 20th centuries. They were not the
ones on the front lines willing to go to war with New York State to protect
our status as free peoples. They did not care to learn the rituals of thanksgiving
which keep us humble or the language which enables us to speak to the skies
and stars. They are in a state of perpetual conflict with the traditional beliefs.
They use their powers, as granted to them by the US and New York, to forcibly
subdue anyone standing against them.
Witness the Oneida Nation of New York, Inc. now facing litigation before the US Supreme Court for violating the human rights of the Oneida people. And why the Supreme Court? Because Oneida, Inc. is a US, hence alien, entity existing outside of the Haudenosaunee circle in the murky world of US corporate law.
Then there is the truly disturbing Cayuga situation. It must be understood that the Cayugas residing in this region desperately want their own home. They want a stable, traditional council to govern a singular community. They need time and space to recover from 200 years as guests in other peoples homes. This will not happen because Oneida, Inc. is afraid of the revival of a Cayuga Nation Council of Chiefs. The Councils 11 male leaders and 11 clan mothers will strengthen the Haudenosaunee, that entity which has declared Oneida, Inc. to be outlaw and has been targeted by Oneida, Inc.s CEO as the primary threat to his unilateral control over all things Oneida.
So Oneida, Inc. waited until the last Cayuga chief passed on before pouncing.
It poured millions of dollars into a highly unstable organization which in no
way is capable of governing under Haudenosaunee law. Inevitably, the tensions
within the Cayugas degenerated into serious divisions which have paralyzed those
people. But chaos wont stop Pataki from making his deals, nor has it slowed
the casino investors who stand to make millions of dollars while gloating over
the Cayuga carcass.
There is simply no Haudenosaunee administration capable of effectively managing
the kind of massive casino ventures Pataki advocates for the Catskills. Certainly
not the Mohawks whose tiny operation has yet, after years of operation, to turn
a profit. Not the Senecas whose Niagara Falls casino has yet to pay them a dime
and surely not Oneida, Inc. which, after 12 years of reaping in hundreds of
millions, still refuses to provide its people with an audit of its operations.
And where is the Oneida, Inc. money? $10 million to Harvard, $10 million to
the National Museum of the American Indian and millions more for Falcon jets,
mansions and other investments all without the knowledge
or approval of the Oneida people.
But perhaps this metamorphosis of the Haudenosaunee from free, humble and caring
human beings into callous consumers is precisely what Pataki and crew are unwittingly
bringing about. We are the human conscience of this land and when we no longer
care for mother earth why should she care for us?
This is my version of what the land claims are about.